Politician, writer run afoul of security law

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Politician, writer run afoul of security law

July 31, 1959
Some called Jo Bong-am a politician ahead of his time. Mr. Jo served public office during the political turmoil following the liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945 and the Korean War (1950-1953). As a highly respected politician, Mr. Jo never knew his job would be his doom. Convicted of violating the National Security Law, Mr. Jo was sentenced to death; he was executed on this date.
Born in 1898, Mr. Jo started a political career in his early 20s, taking part in the 1919 nationwide anti-Japanese movement. He soon moved to Japan to study political science at a Japanese college, attracted not by the classes but by an underground society that instilled within him the idea that communism could free his country.
He soon dropped out of college to return home, where he established a communist party. His next destinations were Moscow and Shanghai, where he made his name as an active freedom fighter in the communist camp. Mr. Jo became an eyesore to the Japanese colonial government and in 1932 was jailed for seven years.
After his release, Mr. Jo became a National Assembly member in 1945, the year Korea was liberated from Japan. In 1948, he was appointed the first agricultural minister of the country, and was later named vice-speaker of the Assembly.
His ambition reached its peak when he ran for presidency on two separate occasions. He was not a strong candidate against then-president Syngman Rhee, but scored considerable votes. In 1956, he cemented his political status even more by establishing the Jinbo (Progress) Party, a reformist group.
Everything was going well for Mr. Jo and no one, not even Mr. Jo himself, imagined he would be accused for violating the almighty National Security Law in 1958. But he was charged with being a North Korean spy, supposedly directed by a special agent from Pyeongyang named Yang Myeong-san.
The charge was enough to ruin Mr. Jo’s political life, and history remembers it as the Jinbo Party Incident. Although Yang Myeong-san recanted, the Supreme Court handed down a death sentence.
Many historians believe Mr. Rhee’s ruling party was behind the charges. Others raise questions as to whether it was a conspiracy motivated by Mr. Jo’s left-leaning political views.
After its leader died, the Jinbo Party lost its status and then-President Rhee and his Jayu (Freedom) Party strengthened their grip on the country.
Mr. Jo’s books include “Discovery of the Contradiction of Communism,” “Our Impending Problems” and “The Road We Should Take Forward.”

July 31, 1996
Kim Ha-gi was an average novelist without a reputation, until he went to North Korea.
Mr. Kim, then 38, was traveling in China close to the border between North Korea. After being seen on this date in a North Korean restaurant in Yanbian, China, having drinks, he disappeared.
His family in Seoul reported him missing. Rumor had it that he had been forcibly taken to the North, but North Korean officials denied that they abducted Mr. Kim, who was known as a pro-North Korean activist in his college days.
A few weeks later, North Korea expelled Mr. Kim, who then resurfaced in China. When he flew back to Korea on Aug. 18, he was arrested on charges of violating the National Security Law.
It turned out he had taken a taxi to the border. According to the driver, Mr. Kim said, “I’ll go to North Korea and climb Mount Baekdu.”
He was sentenced to seven years in jail on the charge of leaking sensitive South Korean information. It was alleged that he talked to North Korean officials about the situation of long-term political prisoners in the South.

by Chun Su-jin
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